NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor told jurors in an opening statement Monday that a New Jersey software developer was actually a highly trained terrorist seeking U.S. landmarks for an attack from 2000 to 2005.
Alexei Saab, 45, of Morristown, New Jersey, had a dual identity as he worked for Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization, ready to attack Americans in popular locations if Iran was attacked by the United States. United, Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Adelsberg said.
By day, Saab was a software engineer working for technology companies that integrated enough for him to become a US citizen, the prosecutor said.
By night, he was “a terrorist and a spy” scouting for potential terror targets in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and abroad in France, Turkey and the Czech Republic, Adelsberg said.
Saab was arrested in July 2019 after being questioned in 11 sessions over several weeks with FBI agents.
Saab’s lawyer, Marlon Kirton, said all evidence in the case came from Saab itself and could not be considered reliable.
And he noted that Hezbollah had never attacked Americans in the United States.
In court documents, investigators said Saab told officers he took photos of buildings and locations, including Quincy Market and the Prudential Center in Boston and the Capitol Building, Congress and the White House in Washington. , DC A video of Fenway Park was recovered from one of Saab’s electronic devices.
Adelsberg said targets sought by Saab include Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, the three New York area airports, the Brooklyn, Triborough and George Washington bridges and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels linking New Jersey with Manhattan. , among others.
“On paper he was leading a normal life when in reality he was a Hezbollah sleeper agent,” he said.
Besides surveillance activities in the United States, Adelsberg said Saab also operated overseas after joining Hezbollah in 1996. He said Saab tried to kill a man he later understood to be a suspected Israeli spy pointing a gun at the individual at close range, but the gun jammed.
Saab also faces a fraudulent marriage charge for allegedly marrying a co-conspirator in 2012 under false pretences. Saab’s lawyer did not contest this accusation.
Saab has pleaded not guilty to charges including material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy, military-style training provided by a foreign terrorist organization, unlawfully obtaining citizenship to facilitate international terrorism, and fraudulent citizenship application.
The most serious charge carries a maximum potential sentence of 25 years in prison, although the charges collectively carry potential sentences of over 100 years in prison.